A friend read the manuscript for the cheap wine book and said he had a fairly big question: ?Why aren ?t there any wine recommendations Because, of course, all wine books have to have wine recommendations.
The Cassagnoles ($10, purchased, 12%) helps answer his question: It ?s the quintessential cheap white wine ? professionally made and interesting, yet simple enough to appeal to people who are scared of wine and who don ?t want to spend a lot of money for something that they don ?t know.
It ?s produced in the wonderfully white grape and citrus style that defines Gascon white wine, and is made with grapes that don ?t show up too many other places ? one-half colombard, with ugni blanc and gros manseng filling out the blend. It ?s fresh and bright and lively and the bottle is gone before you know it. Wine for weeknight dinners doesn’t get much better than this. That’s why it’s in the $10 Hall of Fame and should stay there for a long while.
But what happens if I recommend it in the book, and a reader can ?t find it locally? Or buys an older vintage, which is worn out and off-putting? Or buys the wine one year when it isn ?t well done, which is possible given the vagaries of the wine business and that the book probably won ?t be updated every year with new recommendations. They ?ll fire off an angry email.
That ?s why the book is about the process of cheap wine ? its history, why cheap wine is possible, what makes a quality cheap wine, and how to find one. Then the reader won ?t be complaining. He or she will will be too busy drinking great cheap wine they found themselves, like the Cassagnoles. What more could I ask for?
This Gascon white wine set me up for a 2013 Curmudgie. I saw it in the store, and immediately doubted whether it would be any good, and for no reason other than I was being stupid.
A guy I know at the store talked me into buying it, and the first thing I did the next time I saw him was to apologize for being so cranky. What ?s the most important rule in tasting wine? Drink it before you judge it.
What sets the de Pouy apart is a green apple sort of citrus note that balances everything and takes the wine where most $10 wines don ?t go. Yes, it ?s a simple wine, but the best simple wines, like this one, aren ?t overdone or insulting. That ?s what makes them interesting.
Highly recommended; chill it and drink on its own, or with almost any kind of food that isn ?t red meat, a cream sauce, or spaghetti. It should stay in the Hall as long as it costs $10 — and as long as I don ?t judge it before I drink it.
Domaine D ?Arton, a white blend from the Gascony region of France, is great cheap wine, even by the Wine Curmudgeon ?s exacting standards. It ?s not only on a level with the Gascon wines in the $10 Hall of Fame, but it also demonstrates that wine doesn ?t have to come from the same old places and be made with the same old grapes.
The D ?Arton ($9, purchased) is an odd blend, even for Gascony, made with mostly colombard and fleshed out with sauvignon blanc (not the region ?s best grape) and gros manseng. The result is a dry white with some lemon peel in the front, yet underneath is that wonderful white grapiness that makes Gascon wines so distinctive and so much fun to drink. It's the kind of wine that doesn't require a critic or a sommelier; just a simple dinner or an evening on the porch, friends and conversation.
Hmmm, that Gascon wine sounds like a fine choice for my turkey dinner.
The only rule when choosing Thanksgiving wine? “If Aunt Dorothy likes [insert a wine you hate here, like white zinfandel or a sweet red], who are you tell her she can’t have any?”
So forget all that stuff about proper pairings and $50 bottles of 94-point wine. Thanksgiving is not about wine snobbery, but about having a good time and sharing food and wine and memories with your family and friends.
One of the perks of being the Wine Curmudgeon are trade tastings, where producers and importers offer samples of their various wines. At a recent Dallas trade tasting, two of my favorite Gascon wines were in attendance — Domaine Duffour and Domaine du Tariquet.
Getting to taste them reminded me how much I appreciate Gascon wine, which is cheap, made with odd grapes, and just the thing to keep in the refrigerator for wine emergencies. So I did a quick round of the stores to find some more, and came up with the Artigaux ($10, purchased).
It's made with the Gascon grapes, ugni blanc and colombard, and it's not quite the wine that the Duffour or the Tariquet are. The Artiguaux is more simple, with a touch too much white grapey-ness. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, since the wine is fresh with low alcohol (11 1/2 percent) and almost enough acid to balance the fruit.
This is wine for the end of summer, and wouldn't be bad at any other time — such as the refrigerator emergency wine, when you need a glass after work or something to drink with Chinese takeout.
Sept. 2, 2011 update: Tasted the 2010 at The Esquire in San Antonio, where it was surreal to see Tariquet on the wine list, and for only $21. The wine was everything it should be. There was a bit of grapey fruit, lots of citrus, and that wonderful, fresh, clean style. And it paired well with fried dill pickles.
The good news: This is still great cheap wine, and a member of the $10 Hall of Fame.
The bad news: The 2009 isn’t as interesting as the 2007 and 2008. I’m not sure if it’s because the vintage was lacking or if the 2009 is too old. As wonderful as the Tariquet is, it’s not made to age more than a year or two; hopefully, the 2010 will be here soon. There’s less green apple and more grapiness in the 2009 than in other vintages.
Having said all of that, the Tariquet ($10, purchased) shows what can be done when a producer cares about making quality cheap wine. It’s a white blend composed of ugni blanc and colombard, two grapes held in lesser repute most everywhere else in the world. But in Gascony, where the Tariquet is made, they are as important as chardonnay is elsewhere, and it shows in the wine. And the winery has been around since the late 17th century, so the winemakers know a thing or two about what they’re doing.